A study on the framework for the separation of powers between the legal service and the justice ministry has been completed as part of a bill submitted to parliament, Justice Minister Marios Hartsiotis has said.

The constitution would need to be changed to effect the law when it is passed by the House, the minister told MPs at the House audit committee. The separation of powers comes under a wider modernisation of the legal service, he said, and added that Cyprus had studied models in other countries such as the UK, Malta and Ireland.

“This is the implementation of a pre-election commitment of President Christodoulides,” he said. The new system will not affect the current Attorney-General (AG) George Savvides and will only come into effect after his retirement.

The proposal had been tabled by nine MPs.

The matter came to the fore earlier in the year as a means to rein in the power of the AG’s office following a report from the European Commission on the rule of law in Cyprus that was published the previous year when a draft for the separation of powers was before parliament.

“The draft law on reform of the Law Office of the Republic tabled in parliament does not provide a clearer distinction between its advisory and prosecutorial role,” the Commission’s report said.

“The absence of review of decisions of the attorney-general not to prosecute or to discontinue criminal proceedings raise concerns.”

It suggested strengthening the independence and the accountability of the prosecution service, including by providing for a possibility of review of the decision of the attorney-general not to prosecute or to discontinue proceedings, taking into account European standards on independence and autonomy of the prosecution.

The Commission said there was no clear separation between staff entrusted with advisory tasks and those carrying out prosecutorial tasks and that in 2016, Greco had expressed the view that being an integrated part of the law office, “the prosecution service may be seen to operate in an environment that is not fully free from potential or real risk of improper influence”.

Cyprus is the only member state where no form of review of such decisions – neither judicial nor hierarchical – is provided, according to data in the 2022 EU Justice Scoreboard.

The Constitution provides that the attorney-general has the power, exercisable at his or her discretion in the public interest, to institute, conduct, take over and continue or discontinue any criminal proceedings.

The decisions of the AG cannot be reviewed and do not need to be reasoned, according to the Supreme Court.

“According to European standards, the absence of remedies against decisions of public prosecutors not to prosecute results in a high risk of non-accountability,” the Commission said.